Staying active through fall and winter can be a challenge for many of us. It is the time of year when we want to curl up on the couch with a warm drink rather than face the darkness and inclement weather that the season brings. While it can be exhilarating to exercise outside when it is cooler and darker, given the choice of working out indoors or outdoors, we often go with the former choice, but with a little preparation and thought there is no reason why you can’t make the most of the outdoors.
Whether you are running, cycling or walking having the right gear is crucial for comfort as well as safety. From head gear to shoes there is a myriad of choices out there and so there really isn’t any excuse for not dressing appropriately. Remember a warm body is a happy body so take the time to invest in some proper clothing. Ear bands and hats are an essential item if you feel the cold (remember 80% of your body heat is lost through the head) as are gloves or mitts. You may need to wear one, two or three layers on your body depending on the weather and wind chill. There are many thermal and technical moisture-wicking fabrics out there so ask your favourite running, cycling or outdoor store for recommendations. Tights can come in varying degrees of thickness so this will depend on the temperature and your comfort. And don’t forget socks. Not cotton, but smart wool.
Once we put the clocks back at the end of October, then the days will get shorter and we face the prospect of exercising in the dark, in the mornings and evenings. Being visible is very important and always remember, just because you can see, that oncoming car doesn’t mean he can see you. There are many poorly lit streets in Victoria and so wearing light colours is important. Many jackets are now made with reflective materials, but you can still buy bright yellow safety vests to go over any jacket. Runners and cyclists should check out a cool new product – the Tracer 360, a fibre optic visibility vest, which is lightweight and has multicolour flashing modes, which can be seen for over a quarter mile. Head lamps are also good to wear and cyclists should always have front and rear lights.
If you are taking out your four-legged friend for a walk or run at night, it isn’t only you who needs to be visible. There are reflective leads and collars on the market and also LED lights specifically for attaching to a collar or harness.
There is usually a lot more planning to do when exercising in the dark – the usual routes during the day may not appear as attractive at night. So this could be a good way to try new ones – just ensure they are well lit, well frequented and have good footing. If your neighbourhood is dark then drive further afield. Running on Dallas Rd in winter with waves lashing the beaches and the sea spray in your face is very invigorating. Although we have a great trail system in Victoria, sections of the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails aren’t well lit and so it may be best to avoid those at night. Exercising with a friend is always more fun at the best of times, buddying up in the winter is even better.
We always talk a lot about hydration and fuelling while exercising during the summer months, but tend to neglect this over the fall and winter. It isn’t warm, I am not sweating so why do I need to drink water? We can still get dehydrated even in the cooler temperatures, our bodies don’t give us the obvious signs as they do in summer, but we still perspire – particularly if you are on a long run or ride – so always hydrate before and during and refuel afterwards.
Exercising can be fun and safe during the dark days of fall and winter, you just need to be prepared to brave the elements and get out and do it.